Here in Whatcom County it often seems like we're drowning in water. Nearly a yard of rain falls on us annually. We're surrounded by lakes, streams, rivers and salt water. So why is our water resource such a contentious issue?
It's simple; every living thing depends on it. We all need water resource quantity and quality for fish, crops, consumption, manufacturing and much much more. No one can survive without it. So, it is in everyone's best interest to work together to ensure the highest quality and a reasonable quantity for all.
Rather than a tug of war over the resource, proactive strategic planning can help provide ample supplies for all needs.
The League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County recognized a need for public dialog on water issues in our community and hosted two forums with expert panelists to open the conversation. Videos of those forums are available at http://www.lwvbellinghamwhatcom.org/WaterSolutions.html.
The Rome Grange is continuing this conversation with four forums featuring additional experts to broaden understanding of the issues. A video of the first event is available at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPNO0KyzkTMbJ4j9tu2pjnQ/feed.
RESources for Sustainable Communities has launched WaterWork, a program aimed at solving local water resource problems through community education, policy development and grassroot activism. RESources plans to change the conversation around water from one focused on fear to one focused on solutions and will provide resources and build the public insistence necessary to create proactive, collaborative and science-based water policy.
Recently, the Whatcom County Council unanimously passed a resolution to create a Whatcom Water Action Plan. This is a great first step toward strategically deciding how we address water in our county. Prior to this, the council has utilized a working document that prioritizes water issues facing our community including water rights, access and quality. Council Chair Carl Weimer has written a web-based questionnaire for citizens to share their priorities with the council on water issues. Links to the resolution, the water priorities and the survey can be found on the League website at http://www.lwvbellinghamwhatcom.org/WaterSurvey.html.
Solving water resource issues will take more than talk and a piece of the puzzle is becoming educated about solutions. To that end the league, RESources, and Sustainable Connections are sponsoring an exclusive single showing of the new PBS documentary, "Water Blues, Green Solutions" at 6:30 p.m., Monday, May 19 at the Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St.
"Water Blues, Green Solutions" is narrated by Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategist and Peabody Award-winning broadcaster.
"We want 'Water Blues' to attract a national audience to move people to think differently," said Frank Christopher, the film's director, producer and writer. "I want people to ask the question, 'Why aren't we doing that?'"
"Water Blues, Green Solutions" takes the viewer on a journey to Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio and the Bronx showcasing communities that are using green infrastructure - land conservation, green roofs, rain gardens, porous surfaces and other methods - to remedy the challenges of flooding, pollution and scarcity.
Proactive involvement of citizens in these communities provided the impetus to solve their water issues. Taking a look at how they brought diverse groups together to find solutions, money, and the political will for action helps broaden our ability in solving Whatcom County's water issue differences.
After the one-hour film, a panel of local community leaders will discuss the complex array of water management issues facing Whatcom County residents, comment on the film's "green solutions" and invite audience participation. Panelists are Kate Blystone, program director of RESources for Sustainable Communities; Randy Honcoop, raspberry farmer and board member at Ag District Coalition; Colleen Mitchell, project manager and a civil engineer with 2020 Engineering; Robin Matthews, director of the Institute for Watershed Studies and a professor in Western's Huxley College of Environmental Studies; and Jon Hutchings, assistant director of Natural Resources with the Bellingham Public Works Department.
Our locally elected officials have been invited to join us at this premier event. Seats can be reserved for $5 per ticket at http://www.pickfordfilmcenter.org/shop/tickets/. We encourage the community to attend "Water Blues, Green Solutions" and take the next step forward in proactive strategizing for our water resource that impacts every citizen in this county.
"Water Blues, Green Solutions," a one-hour documentary about water issues, followed by a community discussion, is planned for 6:30 p.m., Monday, May 19 at the Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St. Go online at pickfordfilmcenter.org/shop/tickets/to purchase $5 tickets.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Baumgart is the communications director for the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County.